Better than 2020
Snowflakes are quite beautiful. Ice is captivating as it drips solidly from the edge of the roof. And there is not much more joy to be found than in playing hard in the snow.
But the storms passing across the country are not beautiful nor captivating - they are destructive and deadly.
As a nation, we talked about and anticipated 2021 would be better than 2020 -- vaccines and jobs were just around the corner if we could hang on. This year had to better than the last one. Right?
Hope or doubt
Unfortunately, I am beginning to have some doubts.
The insurrection of January 6th was hardly an auspicious start to the year. And the millions of people struggling to stay warm without power during these storms must think it is a cruel joke that we are only in the 7th week of the new year.
How do we hang on to hope when hit after hit keeps knocking us down?
How do we cultivate hope?
Hope is the belief that what we cannot see now will come to pass in the future. So it might be a bit hard to hang onto hope once we begin to doubt that the thing we do not see yet will happen.
How do we cultivate a strong sense of hope when doubt pushes away at the edges or slices hope right down the middle?
With kindness. Yes, I really think it is that simple. Being kind to others - purposefully kind -- is an antidote to rising doubt, an antidote to losing sight of the good we know is around the corner or down the road.
Kindness is effort or action which benefits someone else without thought of any benefit to ourselves. Often kind acts -- putting others' best interest first -- require ignoring our own self-interest.
There's oodles and oodles of research behind the benefits of kindness -- about how kindness is a boon to physical, mental and emotional health. Spend some time online researching "kindness" and you'll run across multiple resources explaining why and how being kind improves our sense of contentment, increases a feeling of gratitude and releases neurochemicals that give us a sense of well-being as well as reduces physical pain -- even observing an act of kindness can release the same hormones!
And I would propose that serving others' interest first -- kindness -- rekindles and gives strength to hope.
Practicing random acts of kindness is a good way to develop the habit of putting others' interest before our own. But in the midst of doubt, of slowly losing our grasp on hope, I would advocate for purposefully seeking out the opportunity to be kind -- planning specific ways to serve others' best interest first.
Today. And. Everyday.
And it's not too difficult to think of something kind to do. Today would be a good day for me to bag up canned food to give to our local food bank for university students -- it's not much of an example for you, but it follows Mother Teresa's maxim, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
With one kindness at a time strengthening hope,